22 January 2009
Blessed Ethel - Fat Star
Label: 2 Damn Loud
Year of Release: 1995
Yes folks, I most definitely was waiting for a quiet January day to upload this one, and that's for one pure and simple reason - Blessed Ethel don't seem to be quoted frequently enough as a reminder of just how much folly is involved with attempting to predict the future of music. Splattered all across the pages of the British broadsheets and music press this month we've heard all about how ladies with synthesisers are going to "define 2009". Based purely upon a bunch of guesstimates, wishful thinking and the close inspection of major label A&R activity (as plenty of other bloggers have already pointed out) I have real, serious doubts that this will come to pass, to the extent that I've been considering taking an actual bet against it down my local Paddy Power. I'm not too sure that the odds I'd receive would make it worth my while, though.
We need only look back to 1993 to witness the music industry making a similar bizarre prediction. At the Manchester In The City event, a bunch of journalists and music industry "movers and shakers" declared that Blessed Ethel were the best new act of the year. The band they beat were Oasis. Hopefully I don't need to point out how askew this particular prediction was. Blessed Ethel scraped the Indie Top 10 a few times before disappearing, whereas Oasis still have a successful career and a string of ridiculously highly selling albums behind them - somewhat baffling though their longevity actually is.
Blessed Ethel have now fallen by the wayside so badly that they don't even have a Wikipedia page - how's that for infamy? - but for the record, I can state that they hailed from Malvern, were fronted by Sara Doran, and much was made in the music press about their 'outsider' status. Although I don't have the article to hand anymore, I used to have a clipping from the NME which made much of the fact that they were considered weirdos in the very provincial, posh town they stemmed from. It made them sound like mutant renegades stuck in commuterville - although it was written by Steven Wells, so it's quite possible he was just projecting his rock and roll ideas on to them.
Whatever (no pun intended), the press they received definitely made them sound more interesting than Oasis, but unfortunately sometimes the weirdos don't necessarily have the best tunes. Blessed Ethel had one complete stormer entitled "Rat" which rightly received rave reviews, then a few other singles slipped out which were quite good - which obviously wasn't enough to justify their initial hype. "Fat Star" is but one of them, and whilst there's a creepy moodiness about the track which makes it sound comparable to Elastica at their darkest ("S.O.F.T." or "Never Here") there's nothing to suggest they were in any way unique or ahead of the pack at the time, although if we must lump them in with other female fronted bands, I'd argue they deserved success more than Echobelly or Sleeper ever did.
What we're left with seems to be the typical story of a band who the music press would rather forget about, purely because any mention of them just highlights their woeful wrongness in the past. They shouldn't be so coy - apparently Alan McGee was the only person at Creation Records who thought Oasis would make it as well.
Somebody has uploaded a clip of "Rat" to Youtube as well, but it's only thirty seconds long:
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